Annex A – Survey of Defence Practitioners
We issued an online survey to 42 defence firms (48 solicitors) to obtain their views on whether the reforms had changed and/or improved Sheriff and Jury business. There was a 33% response rate. All those who responded had at least three years' experience in solemn work, regularly conducted first diet courts and, with one exception, conducted sheriff and jury trials on a regular basis. All had experience of conducting this type of work both before and after the reforms.
69% of the respondents found the reforms had a positive impact, 19% found that there had been no impact and 12% found that they had a negative impact. Of those who stated there had been a positive impact:
- 64% reported there was better communication between the Crown and defence.
- 55% saw better scheduling of trials.
- 36% reported there was more time to prepare between service of indictment and the first diet.
- 36% stated there was increased judicial management.
- 36% concluded that the combination of the above factors provided a positive impact.
Chaotic timetabling, onerous burdens on defence, failing to identify where there might be witness issues and having to travel to other courts were highlighted as having a negative impact.
In response to the question "What could be done better to help improve the efficiency of solemn business in the Sheriff Court?" the responses included:
- Earlier/speedier disclosure
- Legal involvement of the prosecutor at an earlier stage allowing for meaningful discussion e.g. acceptable pleas
- The prosecution responding better/quicker to correspondence
- More clarity of when cases will call
- Less Section 67 notices
- Increased funding for SCTS and the prosecution service.